Ginger Cookies

This recipe is based on the Joy of Cooking‘s recipe for chocolate chip cookies. Several variations follow the master recipe, along with suggestions and ideas.

It’s best to bake in the center of the oven preheated to 350 degrees. Use parchment paper for easy cleanup and nonstick surface, or use lightly greased cookie sheets.

It’s better to bake multiple cookie sheets, one at a time; they bake quickly and the heat distribution will be better for even browning.

  1. Sift together:
    • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, or whole wheat pastry flour, or a combination of the two
    • ½ teaspoon baking powder
    • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
    • ¼ teaspoon salt

    set aside.

  2. Beat on medium speed until fluffy and well blended:
    • 8 tablespoons (1/4 pound) unsalted butter (I like Plugra or other ‘European Style’ butters’ better flavor, but regular butter also works.)
    • 1 cup brown sugar
  3. Add and beat until combined:
    • 1 large egg at room temperature
    • 1½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract or, even better, the seeds of vanilla bean*
  4. Stir the flour mixture into the butter mixture until well blended and smooth.
  5. Next stir in:
    • 1½ cups finely chopped crystallized ginger**.
    • 1½ cups chopped walnuts.
  6. At this point you are ready to put the cookie dough on the baking sheets. I like to use a mini one inch diameter ice cream scoop to portion the dough.  You can use the old drop from a measured teaspoonful method but I find it hard to control the size of the cookies that way. Either way, I lay a sheet of plastic wrap  over the cookies to gently press them down to flatten. Place the cookies an inch apart (flattened) on the sheet to allow for spreading while baking. Sure beats that fork dipped in water and pressing each one method grandma (bless her) used.
  7. You may bake them now. Otherwise, refrigerate or freeze for baking later (leave the plastic wrap on them) Once frozen, pack into zip lock bags. They can go straight from the freezer to the oven–just add an extra minute or two to the baking time.
  8. Another approach is to save the dough as flat rectangle by packing it into a one gallon zip lock bag. Smooth the dough flat and remove most of the air from the bag. Refrigerate until firm. At this point you can bake them or just pop into the freezer for future baking. I love having frozen dough on hand, then fresh baked cookies are always available quickly. The dough is ready to go. You can also use quart sized bags for portion control. Make a double batch – bake some now and some later. When you’re ready to bake, cut open the bag, lay the sheet of dough on a cutting board and cut to the size you desire. The thickness will be good.
  9. Place an inch apart and bake until just slightly colored on top and browned around the edges, 8-10 minutes. Rotate the tray halfway through baking for more even browning. Allow cookies to cool for two minutes once removed from oven before moving to cooling racks.
  10. Store the cookies in the refrigerator in airtight containers for one week. They can also be frozen after baking; just be sure to wrap well before freezing.

*For vanilla bean, lay bean on a cutting board, press with the flat part of a knife to flatten. Slice through down the length of the bean. Separate and then scrape the seeds by running a sharp knife across the cut portion. Add to cookie dough. Save the bean and add to the cooking liquid for hot cereal or flavor milk for a custard or steep with tea or put in a jar with sugar to infuse vanilla flavor.
**Trader Joe’s sells an inexpensive candied ginger. It is not necessary to use the fancy Australian ginger ‘coins’ although I have used them with good results. Avoid the dense candied ginger, it works but is more difficult to chop. A light coat of non stick spray in the food processor bowl and blade will help keep the fruit from sticking.

Variations:

  • Use almonds, cashews, pine nuts, hazelnuts, pecans or walnuts
    Add a teaspoon of ground cinnamon.
  • A teaspoon or two of grated lemon or orange rind may be added to the butter mixture.
  • In place of ginger you may use any dried fruit – apricot, peach, mango, blueberry, any berry, apple, pear or your favorite. Just be sure to chop into small pieces.
  • For chocolate chip cookies substitute 1½ cups chocolate chips. For better flavor chop a better quality chocolate bar into small pieces.
  • For an extra chocolaty flavor substitute 1/4 cup of flour with cocoa powder.

By dividing the basic dough in half you can make two different kinds of cookies. Just use half the amount of added nuts, fruits, or chocolate ingredients called for in the recipe.

One last trick, if you are shipping cookies to someone, pack them in freshly popped pop corn. Pop corn makes good edible insulation against breakage.

And that’s your cooking lesson for today!

Cheers and happy baking,

Richard Azzolini, ‘le chef’

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Mango-Avocado-Ginger Salsa! (and a condiment building block to help make it)

In today’s post you’ll learn how to make a fabulous Mango-avocado-ginger salsa that livens up any grilled fish or chicken dish.  The salsa is based on a Sweet Mirin Lime Ginger condiment that you can use as a basic building block that will keep well in your freezer.

Sweet mirin lime ginger condiment

The recipe which inspired me to develop this ginger condiment is Lobster with Sweet Ginger from The Wolfgang Puck Cookbook, Recipes from Spago, Chinois and Points East and West. Puck cooks the ginger in plum wine or port and rice wine vinegar. I use mirin, Japanese rice wine, and fresh lime juice. A word about mirin–there is a wide range of quality available. Check the label, rice should be the first ingredient.

It is simple to make and what I really love is that it keeps well in the freezer, just waiting to add delicious sweet-citrus flavor to your cooking. It has an intense sweet ginger flavor, but the lime juice keeps it from being cloying so.

It makes sense to make a decent amount so you have it on hand. You won’t regret it!

  • 1 pound plump, smooth skinned, large rhizomes (bulbs) of fresh ginger
  • 1½ cups mirin
  • ½ cup fresh squeezed lime juice

1. Peel the ginger. Place in water as you finish each piece. I use a sharp potato peeler. Be careful not to slice your fingers. You can hold the ginger rhizome down with the tines of a fork while you peel.

2. There are different ways to cut the ginger. You can cut the ginger into thin coins down the length of the rhizome, about 1/16 inches thick. Or you can cut into thin strips and then julienne strips.

3. In a non-reactive small saucepan add the mirin, ginger and lime juice.

4. Bring to a boil, turn down the heat, and simmer for one hour. Keep an eye on the mixture and stir every 10 minutes. Add a bit of water if it gets too dry. The goal is a thick, syrupy coating on the ginger.

5. Allow to cool. The mixture can be kept in a sealed jar for a few weeks in the refrigerator or packed into a freezer container and frozen. The mixture never freezes solid.  I then remove it from the container, wrap it in plastic wrap, and put it back into the container. You can pry some loose with a fork or remove and slice with a sharp knife.  Re-wrap when done.

Mango avocado ginger salsa

This salsa is fabulous with grilled fish, chicken, as a side dish, or a dip with chips. Use top quality ingredients.

  • 2 cups diced ripe mango
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon or lime juice
  • 1 cup diced avocado
  • 2-3 tablespoons finely chopped mirin lime ginger condiment (see recipe above)
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • ½ teaspoon fresh ground pepper
  • ½ cup fresh cilantro leaves rough chopped
  • toasted black and white sesame seeds

1. Peel and dice the mango into ½ inch cubes

2. Peel and dice the avocado into ½ inch cubes, toss in the table spoon of lemon/lime juice.

3. Combine the sesame oil, soy sauce, ginger and black pepper, stir to combine

4. Add the mango mix to coat with the ginger mixture.

5. Add the avocado and mix into the mango mixture.

6. This can be made 2-3 hours in advance. I recommend covering the mixture with plastic wrap.

Serve with a shower of sesame seeds and chopped cilantro.

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